Flatbush: Chapter 2 – Dennis Smith and Robert Kluger

A 15 year old boy can’t always tell which girl has the prettiest face because he can’t get past the sweater.  That’s especially true if you are 5’3″ as Dennis Smith was at 15.  Dennis was Marlon’s best friend and lived six houses away from him on Albemarle Rd.

Dennis was a sophomore at Holy Cross High School (HCHS) which was only a few blocks away from Marlon’s high school, Erasmus Hall High School (EHHS).  The girls at Holy Cross all wore uniforms.  The tended to look alike,  especially if your eyes never made it to their faces. Their uniforms were not intended to flatter or enhance the bodies of  the teenage girls so Dennis was not attracted to them.   If Dennis could have raised his eyes six inches he would have seen many beautiful young girls.  For the most part, that was not to be.

Dennis would meet Marlon if front of EHHS when school ended. They would walk home together.  The girls at EHHS looked very different than the uniformed girls at HCHS.  They chose their own clothes,  their clothes were more immodest, and they wore makeup.  They did everything to make themselves look attractive to teenage boys including helping nature out when the girl felt slightly cheated.  As a matter of fact, many of the HCHS boys would hang out at EHHS just to see the parade of girls.  Truth be told, these HCHS  boys were not, generally the best students, although Dennis was, in fact an excellent student.

Dennis was Irish, had dark red hair, was considered very funny, and he was good looking.  Most girls thought he was cute, which did not flatter Dennis at all.

Dennis had a basketball hoop in his backyard.  Most days after school, Dennis, Marlon, Heston and Marlon’s classmate, Robert Kluger, would play 2 on 2 basketball until 5:30. After each game they would rotate sides. Marlon was the tallest at 5:10, Heston was 5:9′ Robert was 5:6 and Dennis was 5:3.  Marlon and Robert would not grow another inch.  Heston would grow 2 more inches before he finished high school; he would be just under 6ft as an adult.  Dennis would grow 11 inches as a junior and senior in high school.  He would end up 6:2 and, with his looks, intelligence and personality,  would have no trouble getting girls.  But that would not happen for a couple of years. The best basketball team was Dennis and Robert.  Although the smallest,  they could  move around very quickly on the basketball court and the two brothers could not keep up with them.  They rarely lost a game when they were teamed up.  Dennis was a natural shooter.  He would end up a starter point guard at his college basketball team at The University of Rochester

Robert Kluger

Robert Kluger lived almost a mile away on the fourth floor  in a four story apartment building on Kenmore Place at the corner of Woodruff Avenue.  Kenmore Place was actually  the beginning of East 21 Street .  For some reason that Robert could never figure out, the first two blocks on East 21 Street had street signs that said Kenmore Place.   

Robert had been in several of Marlon’s classes at EHHS.  They became friends when they found out they liked to make fun of the same things.  Robert thought of himself as a deep thinker and very sensitive to other people. He would continue to think of himself as sensitive until he would meet someone who really was sensitive.   For most of his life he would continue to delude himself into believing  he was a deep thinker.  If everything is relative, he may have been a deep thinker.  His opinions of himself were no more unrealistic than most Brooklyn boys in their late teens.  He knew he was something special; he just wasn’t quite sure what that meant. 

He loved sports and played all of the Brooklyn street games with Marlon, Heston and Dennis; especially stick ball and punch ball.

At 15 and 16 he played Kiwanis league baseball at the Brooklyn Parade Grounds.  He was somewhere between a first string and second string outfielder for the Caton Cubs.  The highlight of his baseball career is when he was in a playoff game played at Diamond One, the field with actual stands for the spectators.  In front of packed stands he came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning and hit a Texas league single to drive in the two winning runs.  That memory would stick with him for the rest of his life and more than made up for his .200 Kiwanis league batting average.

Robert definitely had a mind of his own but in most things Marlon was the instigator and Robert the follower.  When they were about 16 years old they went to The Patio movie theater on Flatbush Avenue north of where Robert lived,  not far from Lincoln Road.  They sat in the balcony.  The theater was virtually empty and  Marlon had a thick rubber band and a few paper clips with him.   If you looked at upper right hand corner of the screen, from that day forward, you would have seen a small paper clip sticking out of the screen.  You did have to look for it but the paper clip remained there until the movie theater closed about ten years later. 

The Brighton  Beach subway line ran underground but out in the open as it was going south towards Coney Island.  One day they were walking parallel to the subway tracks near Avenue H and they encountered a large limb that broke off from a tree.   Marlon got the bright idea to pick up the limb and throw it on the subway tracks.  He needed Robert’s help for this.  Robert thought of Marlon as his best friend.   In his mind friendship trumps a stupid act.  So they picked up the tree limb and threw it on the subway tracks, thus blocking any trains from going through until the limb was removed.   The incident made the third page within the Brooklyn section of the New York Daily News.  The police stated they had a pretty good idea who the culprits were and expected to bring them in a couple of days hence. “Bring them in? What did that mean?”,  Robert thought.  Robert had visions of having a record.  Having seen enough prison movies, he was scared shitless.  It turned out the police thought the deed had been done by The Lancers, a local club that was infamous for mild mischief in Flatbush.  When Robert heard that he breathed a sigh of relief.  Now he and Marlon  only had to worry about the Lancers coming to look for them to wreak revenge.  Robert and Marlon both knew many of the Lancers.  They all attended EHHS.   Both of them kept their mouths shut and the incident was soon forgotten.

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